Malhavoc pulls up a chair

August 28th, 2003: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Malhavoc pulls up a chair

Hot off his win as Best Publisher at the ENnies, Monte Cook and Malhavoc Press have created quite a buzz with the alternate Player’s Handbook Arcana Unearthed. With a lion-humanoid PC race, a different selection of classes and magic, and a reorganization of D&D’s basic assumptions as a whole, it was obvious from the start that gamers would sit up and take notice. Support products have flocked to the AU banner from multiple companies, so why should Malhavoc itself be any different? Just released today, The Diamond Throne provides the default campaign setting for Arcana Unearthed players, including eight new prestige classes and plenty of new magic items. The 96-page PDF version of Throne is available now at the slightly discounted price of $9. The print version won’t be cut and set until November.



  1. Jeff says:

    Monte Cook’s Arcana Unearthed seemed to be a much-hyped “alternative” Player’s Handbook. My thought was that maybe Monte had a cleaner 3E in mind than what resulted from his collaboration with his co-authors and WOTC. Well to that end I was completely wrong: Monte must have been the evil genius behind all of 3E’s horrors, or at least a zealously willing participant. To my way of thinking this tome is nothing more than a campaign setting, and a not especially interesting one at that. It just a re-bundling of skills and feats under goofy names, with an elaboration of the mechanics of throwing a spell. Disappointing at best. I think that the time is right for a true alternative Player’s Handbook, but no one seems to be able to do it.

  2. Dai Oni says:

    Well, between ARCANA UNEARTHED and 3.5e PLAYER’S HANDBOOK, AU seems to be the more appealing buy than upgrading to the new revision, which received a wide range of criticisms and praises (even I can’t tell if 3.5e is worth buying at this point).

  3. Jeff: do you think some of your reaction to Arcana Unearthed could be subconscious resistance to the changes? Admittedly, I haven’t sat down and taken a hard look at AU yet, but the changes I’ve read about on Monte Cook’s site sounded good.

  4. So I’m making preparations to run an AU campaign for a group, many of whom have never roleplayed before. Obvious challenges aside, it’ll be interesting to see how players who _haven’t_ been playing with elves and dwarves for years will react to a setting where those races are absent, especially when they play side-by-side with a few players who have several years of D&D experience, but are completely unfamiliar with AU.

    I’ve enjoyed reading both AU and _Diamond Throne_. My only real complaint against AU was that the “campaign neutral” AU book itself does have cases where it’s describing a campaign setting for what seems like no reason (the description of the Giant race, describing how they sailed across the ocean to defeat the Dramojh and become the new rulers of much of the continent gives me no real information on Giant society or psychology, and is entirely useless if I do not wish to use the Diamond Throne campaign setting), but including some ignorable information in a “crunchy” rulebook is hardly a high crime. Indeed, this has been a regular problem I’ve had with WotC’s “campaign neutral” sourcebooks ever since _Alternity_. Also, I really like the magic system implemented in AU, which has what I feel is a very eloquent way of dealing with spell selection as characters increase their casting abilities, and the natural gradient of power within spell levels (experienced players always know what the “powerful” Nth level spells are) by “rarities” of spells within a spell level.

    _Diamond Throne_ is really just a campaign setting. Useful mainly for filling in background for some of the more unusual references in AU. It has some clever ideas, and some fairly interesting prestige classes, but really, it’s just a campaign setting, and it will really only be of use to groups that honestly want to try playing in a setting tailored for the AU ruleset. Still, I felt that $9 was a fair price to save me the trouble of cobbling together an e-z bake AU setting on my own in time to get everything together for my players.

  5. Jeff Bryant says:

    Allen, in refards to your comments, you could be correct, I am an old school gamer who beagn in 1977 and can be a curmudgeon at times, but I think it comes from my way of thinking when it comes to the manMy take is that classes are an unnecessary mechanic in a skill/feat-based system. In 3E classes (and levels) basically just serve as a means to categorize skills and as schedules for feat and hit die acquisition, and save and base attack bonuses. I think class limitation of skills is unnecessary and the other pieces can be better handled through use of the skill/feat system. For example, instead of getting a new hit die for gaining a new level, certain skills would grant a hit die when leveled. Experience would buy increases in skills, new feats or attribute increases directly instead of through the encapsulation of a class level. I think spells could be acquired in a similar manner. Or (and maybe better yet) magic could be completely modularized.
    y games I have played.

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